Scheduled as the weekly media column for Sunday:
As Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated pointed out in a recent Q-and-A with CBS’ Jim Nantz, there are only six living broadcasters who have called a TV network Super Bowl since the first one at the Coliseum in 1967: Jack Whitaker, Dick Enberg, Al Michaels, Greg Gumbel, Joe Buck and Nantz, who will be at Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.
Those gone, but hardly forgotten: Ray Scott, Pat Summerall, Curt Gowdy, Jack Buck and Frank Gifford, along with reporters and analsyts like Jim Simpson, Charlie Jones, Tom Brookshire, Kyle Rote, Al DeRogatis, Don Meredith …
Wait a second, Whitaker is still around? You bet he is.
The 91-year-old made a special appearance as part of CBS’ Super Bowl 50 song-and-dance in Pasadena recently before a ballroom of TV writers and became an endearing figure of what sports broadcasting used to be.
We had the opportunity to sit with Whitaker as well and talk about some perspective he could lend to this golden anniversary of a game that he called — the second half of it, at least, for CBS — and what the primitive circumstances were that he dealt with at the time.
It’s one thing to read about his well crafted recollections in his 1998 autobiography “Preferred Lies and Other Tales: Skiming The Cream of A Life In Sports.” But it’s another to hear it again from Whitaker as he is today.
What’s worth posting here and now:
== On the news Wednesday that Sinclair Broadcasting has purchased Santa Monica-based Tennis Channel for $350 million, the Wall Street Journal reports that “the deal is a sign of the increasing pressure on independent cable channels like the Tennis Channel to merge with bigger players as the pay-TV distributors who carry their programming consolidate.”
Sinclair Broadcasting owns 164 television networks and 422 channels in 79 TV markets. It also owns the American Sports Network, which recently televised the Arizona Bowl and had it air on KTLA-Channel 5 in the L.A. market. It was one of the three bowl games — of a total of 41 — not to air on ESPN. The stations owned closest to L.A. are in Fresno, Bakersfield and Las Vegas.
Tennis Channel “is vastly under-compensated and under-distributed relative to the value it brings to its viewers. It was the only independently-owned major sports network left,” Sinclair CEO David Smith said in a statement.
Because of debt Tennis Channel owes, Sinclair estimates the value of the channel to be about $65 million presently.
Former tennis coach and musician Steve Bellamy, married to former USC tennis standout Beth Herr, founded Tennis Channel in 1999, ramped up to a launch in 2003 that we covered, and got DirecTV to carry it in April, 2007. Bellamy also went on to form the Ski Channel and the Surf Channel.
Last year, Kodak named Bellamy as its president of motion picture and entertainment.
Tennis Channel is in the midst of live coverage of the Australian Open.
== For those who may have missed all the awards given out Monday by the Southern California Sports Broadcasters at their annual banquet:
= The Dodgers’ Vin Scully won for play by play in radio (KLAC 570-AM, for his three-inning simulcast) and TV (SportsNet LA, which likely many of the members don’t even have access to). Scully has won the radio award 13 times and the TV award 18 times since it was first given out in 1991, with the proviso that anyone who wins three years in a row isn’t eligible for the fourth year, so …
= The Dodgers’ Orel Hershiser won for game analyst on TV (SportsNet LA) with Rick Monday as the analyst on radio (KLAC)
= The Dodgers’ Jaime Jarrin was best foreign-language play-by-play for his radio work at KTNQ-AM (1020). The Lakers’ Pepe Mantilla was best foreign-language radio colorman. On TV, the Lakers’ Adrian Garcia Marquez was voted best foreign-language play-by-play with the Angels’ Jose Mota as foreign-language analyst.
= The Kings’ Patrick O’Neal was best TV pre- and post-game, and said as he accepted that he was sure this had nothing to do with the fact he just joined the group’s board of directors.
= KNX was the best sports news team
= KCBS/KCAL was the best sports TV team
= Steve Mason and John Ireland were named best sports-talk show (KSPN 710-AM).
Dodgers/USC team photographer Jon SooHoo has a gallery of photos from the event (including the one above).
KABC-Channel 7 posted this story about Rob Fukuzaki’s induction into the group’s Hall of Fame, as the Kings did as well for Jim Fox’s induction.
== College basketball broadcasts upcoming:
= Gus Johnson and Steve Lavin have the UCLA-Washington game from Pauley Pavilion on Thursday at 7 p.m. for Fox Sports 1.
= Spero Dedes and Mike Montgomery get USC playing host to Washington State for the Pac-12 Network (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.).
= Montgomery joins Jim Watson for USC playing host to Washington on Saturday for the Pac-12 Network at noon, followed by Roxy Bernstein and Bill Walton doing UCLA-Washington State from Pauley Pavilion (Saturday, 4 p.m., Pac-12 Net).
= ESPNU has Bernstein and Corey Williams calling Loyola Marymount at BYU (Thursday, 8 p.m.).
= ESPN2 has Beth Mowins and Brad Daugherty at Pepperdine-BYU (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
== Why the Feb. 6 UFC 196 is deemed unworthy for pay per view and will be relegated to Fox Sports 1.
== Among those awarded Golden Mikes for work done in 2015 at last Saturday’s ceremony at the Universal Hilton was Thousand Oaks’ Cal Lutheran campus station KCLU (1340-AM/88.3-FM) in “Best Sports Reporting” category.
A 3 minute, 40 second piece submitted entitled “L.A. Still Without Pro Football, But Ventura County Has Cowboys, Rams This Week” captured the moment when two NFL teams trained in Oxnard last August that captured fans anticipation of the league’s return to Southern California.
News director Lance Orosco, a Sherman Oaks resident who won in six categories at the Golden Mike ceremony, did this piece as well. But that is hardly a surprise at this point.
Orosco has been at KCLU since 2001 and winning awards like this with some regularly.
In 2010, he won a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association for “Best Audio Sports Reporting” in the small market division for his profile on Tony Malinosky, the 100-year-old Oxnard resident who was the oldest living Dodger at the time (he died in Feb., 2011).
== KCLU is in the “B” division for the Golden Mike awards, which designates that it has five or fewer staffers. Those in the “A” division are for six or more staffers. Such as KNX 1070-AM, which won in five categories. But there was no “Best Sports Reporting” award given to an “A” division group for this category by The Radio and Television News Association of Southern California because the judges didn’t deem any of the entries up to the “standard of excellence” it establishes for each category.
With that in mind, consider the winner of the “Best Sports Segment” — the soon-to-be disappearing team at The Beast 980 (KFWB AM), which won for its Sept. 16, 2015 Wednesday morning entry delivered by update man Sam Farber.
That was not a particularly newsworthy day, notes “The Beast” 980 program director Tom Lee of what was included in the prize entry. It had info about the Dodgers’ 16-inning loss at home against Colorado, the Angels win in Seattle, and blind snapper Jake Olson’s first official practice at USC with a quote from Cody Kessler.
“I think it was a very good representation of what a great job Sam does on the updates, using audio, concise writing and crisp delivery,” said Lee.
Farber said it the piece was “in short, what I try to do any given day on any given update — give the relevant stats, information and stories about L.A.’s favorite teams.” He said it was “definitely a station award, but the update segment we sent in was mine and the RTNA was very kind to add my name to it while they were handing it out. All that said, I can’t speak highly enough about my teammates here at The Beast. It will be very sad when it comes to a close.”
Still nothing new about what the Clippers will do with their game broadcasts if the new owners of KFWB go ahead as planned and switch the format to foreign language in the coming weeks.
== Clippers guard J.J. Redick has gotten himself involved in a weekly media project during the season that may end up with a better circulation than the team’s upcoming radio games.
DGital Media and Yahoo Sports have “The Vertical Podcast With J.J. Redick” and Yahoo NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski that will post new episodes every Thursday. The organizers say that Redick will be the first active NBA athlete to host a regular podcast. It’s available on iTunes, Stitcher and the TuneIn audio platform.
During “The Vertical Podcast with Woj” that posted Wednesday, Redick appeared to announce his new show, but he did not address the Blake Griffin situation since it was taped before that news came out on Tuesday morning.
== NBCSN has Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Jeremy Roenick and Pierre McGuire calling the NHL All Star Game on Sunday from Nashville (2 p.m.) with the new 3-on-3 format. Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones are pre- and post-game.
Is the game relegated to the cable channel because NBC is busy with other major sports coverage? Perhaps. KNBC-Channel 4 has the European Figure Skating Championships on tape from Slovakia from 1-to-3 p.m. at this time with Tanith White, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, followed by “paid programming” filling out the rest of the day.
The Saturday skills competition airs on NBCSN at 4 p.m. with Kenny Albert, Olczyk, McGuire and Roenick.
== ESPN has the “Monday Night” crew of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Lisa Salters on the NFL Pro Bowl from Honolulu (Sunday, 4 p.m.). Let it also be known that Chris Berman wormed his way to Hawaii to host a “Postseason NFL Countdown” show at the game starting at 2 p.m. with the rest of the crew — Suzy Kolber, Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson – in the Bristol, Conn., studio.
To make the exhibition game more viewer-friendly, ESPN says it will have mikes on all the quarterbacks, a wireless camera on the referee, locker room access and in-game interviews with Salters.
== Super Bowl week has a way of bringing out the worst in bangwagoning programming, even by the networks not involved in the game’s broadcast itself.
Take NBC’s Tuesday version of NBC’s “Hollywood Game Night,” which includes NFL play-by-play man Al Michaels and the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen.
You’ve been warned. And watch the alcohol intake.
== In the wake of letting Greg Norman go as their lead golf analyst, Fox went ahead and named Paul Azinger as the replacement this week. Fox’s upcoming golf assignments include the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont just outside of Pittsburgh, the U.S. Women’s Open at Cordevalle, just north of San Jose, and the U.S. Senior Open in Columbus, Ohio. Azinger will do those events as well as the U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan and the 2017 Walker Cup at Los Angeles Country Club.
Still nothing concrete about Norman’s exit, but aside from that recently referenced Q-and-A that SI.com’s Deitsch did with CBS’s Nantz, Nantz also gave his overview of the Fox-Norman situation:
“When Greg was the No. 1 ranked player in the world, [he] had a very strong tie with [former CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian]. I can tell you Greg made many, many appearances in the 18th tower when he played in a tournament and was not in one of the last groups. We never had anyone more giving of his time to come up to the tower and put on his headset and tell us what had happened. I always thought he was brilliant. Basically, he got to work one tournament last year. I know all those guys there and I truly wish them well. I talked to Joe [Buck] leading up to the Open and [I’ve known Fox producer] Mark Loomis for a long time. So we don’t know what happened there. I am curious. It takes time for people to be together in any sport on the air, to be able to establish continuity and chemistry. When I interview coaches and players, sometimes you can see who is really gifted at rolling out a sound bite and saying it in a way that has never been heard before—interesting ways in making you think. I worked a lot with Greg over the years and I don’t know why they parted ways. I always had a lot of respect for what he offered when he came to his tower.”
== Dottie Pepper joins CBS’ golf coverage for the first time as a course reporter at this weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open from Torrey Pines as the network opens its golf coverage season.
With Nantz immersed in the Super Bowl coverage, Bill Macatee takes the anchor spot with Nick Faldo in the 18th tower for the network coverage Saturday and Sunday at noon. Ian Baker-Finch, Gary McCord and Peter Kostis are also in this crew that will resume with the AT&T Pebble Beach event the week after the Super Bowl, then come to Riviera Country Club for the L.A. PGA Tour stop.
== A tribute to the late Barney Hall, a voice of NASCAR. “He was auto racing’s answer to Red Barber or Vin Scully,” writes ESPN’s Ryan McGee. “While others shouted over the action, he described the action as if he was reading us all the greatest bedtime story ever.”
== The next MLB Network minidoc: “Holy Cow! The Story of Harry Caray,” which premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m., narrated by actor and Cubs fan William Petersen. Here’s a clip.
== And finally:
After seeing the trailer appear in commercial spots during the College Football Playoff championship game on ESPN two weeks ago, we had been anticipating more attention to the late-January release of the movie “Greater,” on the football career of former University of Arkansas walk-on Brandon Burlsworth.
But the latest is that the film’s distributors have pushed it back to summer because of increased attention to the “Rudy”-like flick — most likely from those TV ads.
A football movie in the summer? If it’s not coming out now, wouldn’t it be best to wait until the fall instead? Otherwise, it makes as much sense as releasing a movie about NFL concussions on Christmas Day.